More Pennsylvania Democrats are voicing frustration with Gov. Wolf and his administration over the coronavirus vaccine rollout, which continues to rank in the bottom quarter of the nation according to data from the Center for Disease Control.
Four congresswomen from the Delaware Valley — Madelein Dean (D-04), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-05), Chrissy Houlahan (D-06) and Susan Wild (D-07) — sent a letter to Wolf this week asking, “that you explore adopting best practices from other states and jurisdictions that might speed up vaccine deployment.”
While the letter contained commonplace political niceties, some of the congresswomen were more direct about their frustrations in social media posts.
“It is beyond time to remedy the lagging supply of vaccines and meet the demands of Pennsylvania’s 6th,” Houlahan said on her Facebook page. “We need to protect our vulnerable. We need our teachers vaccinated so kids can be safely back in the classroom. We need our essential workers and first responders vaccinated so they can safely report for duty. I will continue to advocate on our community’s behalf to get this done.”
According to Becker Hospital Review, Pennsylvania ranks 44 out of the 50 states in the efficiency of its vaccine distribution, using data from the CDC.
The four congresswomen appear to have been motivated by reporting by the Inquirer revealing that vaccine distribution across the commonwealth has shortchanged the Philadelphia suburbs.
Wolf announced Wednesday that the state would focus distribution for the first round of the new Johnson and Johnson vaccine on teachers, which was another central effort of the letter.
State Senator Katie Muth (D-Berks/Chester/Montgomery) posted a video of Wolf’s announcement on Facebook, where she also indicated her frustrations.
“In a call yesterday evening with the [department of health and Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency], I pressed for answers as to whether or not our region would be prioritized given that our schools have been shut down considerably longer than other areas of the state,” Muth said.
‘Our pleas to deliver more doses to SEPA have been largely left unanswered. I get that the supply from the federal government has not been as prominent as initially expected, but there is no reason for this disparity.’
She gave more direct criticism in a report from Patch.com.
“Our pleas to deliver more doses to SEPA have been largely left unanswered,” Muth said. “I get that the supply from the federal government has not been as prominent as initially expected, but there is no reason for this disparity.”
Muth is a member of a cohort of Democrats in the state senate who announced legislation on Feb. 20 to create a statewide vaccine registry.
State Sen. Maria Collett (D-Bucks, Montgomery), also a sponsor of the vaccine registry legislation, told constituents she was not satisfied.
“This is an important step, but I want to be very clear that I am still focused on addressing the ongoing problems with allocations to our region, disorganized processes and getting our seniors and the rest of the people in 1A vaccinated as quickly and equitably as possible,” Collett said on Facebook Wednesday.
Collette has been consistent in her criticisms of the DOH.
When she helped announce the vaccine-registry legislation 10 days ago, Collett said, “For weeks, my colleagues and I have urged the Department of Health to make changes to the vaccine rollout, including more centralized registration, distribution and oversight systems.”
No clear answer has ever been given from lawmakers or the Wolf administration as to whether legislation is necessary to create the registry, or if the DOH could do so on its own. If legislation is not needed, the move further underscores the dissatisfaction among Democrats.
If the lawmakers intended to force the administration’s hand with the proposed legislation, it worked.
These recent moves by Democrats show that dissatisfaction with Wolf, previously limited to grumblings, has ‘spilled out into the open’ with a willingness to challenge the administration by moving on their own.
Days later, Wolf told reporters the state was likely to create a statewide system like the one recently launched in Maryland.
“We’ll be doing the same kind of thing here in Pennsylvania,” Wolf said. “We’re open to the best ways to make sure that everybody who wants a vaccine gets one as quickly, equitably and efficiently as possible.”
A spokesman for the House Republican Party says these recent moves by Democrats show that dissatisfaction with Wolf, previously limited to grumblings, has “spilled out into the open” with a willingness to challenge the administration by moving on their own.
“It’s clear that the Wolf administration, who has taken on the risk, the sole authority to run this pandemic upon themselves for reasons beyond understanding, they don’t have any answers,” said Jason Gottesman. “They’ve bungled the operation of this vaccine rollout on top of all the other things that they have mishandled throughout the pandemic. And they’ve done it so poorly that even their Democrat allies can’t sit on the sidelines and defend their actions.”
In prioritizing teachers for the vaccine, Wolf also turned the pressure back on to educators.
“If you’ve been offered the vaccine, you ought to be willing to come back to school,” he said.
Gottesman said that elected Republicans have been demanding that stipulation for months.